Dan Feldman

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Report: Celtics don’t know when Isaiah Thomas initially injured hip

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Isaiah Thomas missed four games last December with what the Celtics called a knee injury. Then, he missed two games in March with what Boston deemed a groin injury. Finally, in shutting down Thomas for the playoffs due to a hip injury in May, the team acknowledged the March injury was actually a hip injury.

Was the December injury also to Thomas’ hip?

What the Celtics knew and when they knew it have become major questions.

They traded Thomas to the Cavaliers, who ultimately demanded an additional second-round pick after giving Thomas a physical. Cleveland, gunning for a championship against the high-powered Warriors, has little margin for error. Neither does Thomas, a 5-foot-9 28-year-old who opted against surgery and is entering a contract year he hopes will culminate with a max contract.

Tom Haberstroh of ESPN spoke to several medical experts, including Dr. Carlos Guanche about Thomas’ condition. Haberstroh:

Though Thomas’ hip condition was only made public in May, league sources told ESPN.com that the Celtics organization was not certain exactly when the labral tear occurred. The Towns collision on March 15 was one possible aggravation point, but the initial timing of the tear remains unclear.

Given the circumstances, Guanche says he was surprised to see that Thomas had opted to forgo surgery in May.

“That would have been the time to get it fixed,” Guanche says. “It was a gamble.”

Thomas is rehabbing in Cleveland with a chip on his shoulder. He insists he’ll be fine.

But bravado goes only so far with injuries. Thomas can’t necessarily will himself through this like he willed himself to NBA stardom, though I understand why that experience would inform his current attitude.

He could be fine. Maybe he’ll recover fully. Maybe it’s not too late for surgery.

But Haberstroh’s in-depth foray into Thomas injury is eye-opening. I suggest reading it in full.

Pacers vow not to sue NBA, Lakers

AP Photo/R Brent Smith

The NBA issued the largest tampering fine in league history – $500,000 – on the Lakers for communicating with Paul George while he was under contract with the Pacers.

But short of stripping draft picks or prohibiting Los Angeles from signing George, every penalty was going to seem tolerable for the Lakers. Not even the maximum allowable fine – $5 million, per the NBA’s constitution – would have shocked the system.

Did the Pacers – who requested the NBA’s investigation and since traded George to the Thunder for a paltry return – approve of the penalty? Pacers owner Herb Simon was considering suing the NBA and Lakers, according to Peter Vecsey.


It’s a little odd the Pacers responded so strongly to an isolated report from a rumormonger. I certainly don’t mind them setting the record straight, but most teams would just let an erroneous report like that pass by.

I wonder whether the Pacers regret initiating the investigation. Everyone tampers, and now the Pacers will be under the microscope. They might be the one team that can’t tamper for a bit. This statement could be an attempt to remove the counterproductive badge of being the team that broke ranks to complain about tampering.

Spurs muck up flexibility to keep aging team intact

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Spurs have an in-his-prime superstar capable of leading a team a championship.

They’re making it much harder for Kawhi Leonard to do so – not just in 2018, but in 2019 and even 2020, as well.

The dream of Chris Paul invigorating a team that might have already peaked? Poof. San Antonio’s Paul pursuit blew up before free agency even began, Paul opting in for a trade to the Rockets. No other star free agent appeared close to joining the Spurs, either.

The backup plan of rolling over cap space to next summer, maybe even having enough to lure two max players to join Leonard? San Antonio didn’t even appear interested.

A a 37-year-old Pau Gasol, who opted out of a $16,197,500 salary when it appeared the Spurs could lure an upgrade with cap space, was rewarded with $39.5 million guaranteed when they struck out. Franchise icon Tony Parker, 35 and injured, stays on the books at his $15,453,126 salary – potentially a complicating factor all along in San Antonio’s ability to clear max cap space for Paul. Even 29-year-old Patty Mills (four years, $50 million) could wind hurting flexibility more than he helps on the court as he ages.

It’s difficult to judge the Spurs, who kept their primary plan – assuming there was one better than this – close to the vest. What if they had a 90% chance of landing Paul and promising Gasol such a large raise in the event Paul signed elsewhere was the only way to get Gasol to opt out? Gasol’s new contract would just be the unfortunate cost of a savvy gamble.

But it seems unlikely Paul was anywhere near that certain. And did Gasol really require such a big raise to opt out and give San Antonio a chance to add talent, especially in such a tight center market?

Making him whole with an identical 2017-18 salary on a one-year contract seemed fair. Adding a second season at $16.8 million is shockingly bad. Guaranteeing $6.7 million of $16 million in 2019-20 is nearly beyond belief.

Plenty of people believe Gasol could be moved next summer if necessary to sign a major free agent, and he could be. But I’d be shocked if it’s at value, and there’s little virtue in signing expensive contracts that will require significant sweeteners attached to be dumped. I’d also be surprised if paying Gasol $16 million 2019-20 is appealing, though it’s not as if paying him $6.7 million not to play is ideal, either.

This is simply an awful contract – maybe one offered out of necessity after bad luck, though I doubt it. Either way, I’m grading the team’s situation change, not the logic that got them there.

The Spurs not only whiffed this summer, whether they have any cap next summer is tied to player options for LaMarcus Aldridge ($22,347,015), Danny Green ($10 million), Rudy Gay ($8,826,300) and Joffrey Lauvergne ($1,656,092). It’ll be fascinating which of those players San Antonio wants to opt in or out.

Gay for the mid-level exception was the big outside signing this year, and he carries name recognition. But he’s 31 and fewer than eight months removed from a torn Achilles. It’d hardly be surprising if the Spurs tap his talent, but I’m skeptical – especially because they need his athleticism.

San Antonio lost a pair of athletic defenders in Dewayne Dedmon and Jonathon Simmons. Neither seemed to endear himself to Gregg Popovich, but they’ll be missed.

So will Parker, at least to begin the season (probably). Mills had already become San Antonio’s best point guard, and he’ll still have Manu Ginobili (re-signed for two years, $5 million) as a passing/ball-handling crutch. But that leaves other minutes at point guard to No. 29 pick Derrick White or Dejounte Murray, last year’s first-rounder who’s even younger than White. The return of an already-declining Parker won’t necessarily fortify the position, either.

Leonard’s two-way excellence and Popovich’s coaching led a middling supporting cast to 61 wins and a 23-point lead in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals last season. Then, Leonard got hurt, and the wheels fell off in a Warriors sweep. Did Zaza Pachulia undercut a San Antonio championship? Maybe.

But that opportunity is gone, and the Spurs can’t simply recreate it. Retaining the oldest pieces from last year’s squad – the oldest to win a playoff series – won’t ensure another, ideally healthier, crack at Golden State. So much of San Antonio’s roster will decline with age.

The Spurs will probably win a lot of games again. They might even return to the conference finals. Knowing them, White and small-time signees Lauvergne and Brandon Paul will blossom into excellent rotation players.

San Antonio probably deserves the benefit of the doubt, but I’m grading what I see: A good team with a young superstar stagnating rather than building him a championship-caliber supporting cast – and inhibiting its ability to do so in future years.

Offseason grade: D

Magic Johnson: I told Jeanie Buss to take $500,000 tampering fine from my paycheck

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The NBA fined the Lakers, owned by Jeanie Buss, $500,000 for a tampering violation committed by general manager Rob Pelinka.

Lakers president Magic Johnson volunteered to pay the penalty.

Johnson, via Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

“We can’t say a lot but we will correct the situation,” Johnson said Monday. “It’s under my watch. I apologize to Jeanie, and that was the main thing. I told her she could take it out of my salary because I don’t want the Lakers to be paying that fine. … I don’t want her spending $500,000, because she didn’t do anything. That’s on me.”

Ah, to be rich.

Johnson is being a great employee (offering to pay Buss) and great boss (shielding Pelinka). Though new to running an NBA front office, this is the type of situation where Johnson’s business experience pays off. He was always going to get this right.

To be fair, Johnson played a bigger role than just overseeing Pelinka. Johnson winked at Paul George on television, enraging the Pacers and drawing a warning from the league. Without Johnson doing that, maybe Pelinka’s communication with George’s agent doesn’t prompt a fine.

But Johnson is going above and beyond here, setting the tone in a franchise that badly needed fresh thinking. We’ll whether Buss accepts his offer.

Report: Hawks center Miles Plumlee charged with marijuana possession

AP Photo/Chuck Burton

Miles Plumlee spent his offseason recovering from knee surgery, getting traded to the Hawks and apparently getting arrested for marijuana.

Sam Amico of Amico Hoops:

Atlanta Hawks center Miles Plumlee was arrested for possession of marijuana on Long Island in late August, Vecsey wrote (subscription required). According to Vecsey’s post, Plumlee was charged with possession and released on $100 bail.

If convicted, Plumlee will have violated the NBA’s marijuana program. Neither first (warning) nor second ($25,000 fine) violations are typically announced, so it’s unclear where Plumlee is on the progression. A third violation triggers a five-game suspension.

The bigger issue: Why is the NBA penalizing players for something that ranges from a petty offense to completely legal?